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Lawyer Suspended 1 Year for Charging Car Rides to Clients

Ralph Lerner, a former Sidley Austin partner, was suspended for one year by an Appellate Division, First Department panel, for charging “car service rides for himself and his family to clients.” The firm confronted Lerner about charging clients for rides back in 2008. In response, “Lerner reimbursed clients about $50,000 and resigned from the firm.” Lerner was given the opportunity to turn himself in to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, which he did.

In April 2011, the committee charged Lerner with misconduct, and asked a referee to levy a one year suspension; Lerner asked for six months. The referee split the difference, giving Lerner a nine-month suspension; however it was reduced to six months by a hearing panel.

The ultimate decision rested with the First Department to “confirm the hearing panel’s conclusion and imposing whatever sanction it deems appropriate.” The First Department panel found that Lerner’s actions warranted a one year suspension.

The panel noted that Lerner’s professional accomplishments and favorable character evidence acted as mitigating factors, but they were ultimately “outweighed by the protracted nature of his misconduct.” Ronald Minkoff, Lerner’s attorney was disappointed with the outcome, “especially in light of the hearing panel’s recommendation of a six month suspension.”

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